Boys' Clothing during the 1970s

Little American boys dressed up in shortalls and Eton suits. Some boys at about 7 would wear short pants suits, but in such clothes were rarely seen on boys older than 10. Most American boys by 7 or 8 were dressing in suits little different from their fathers. Mostly they wore casual clothes with shorts becoming increasingly common. One popular American fashion was to dress sisters and smaller brothers in matching outfits, but rarely were brothers and younger sisters dressed alike.

A major change occurred in Europe with shorts and knee socks virtually disappearing on older boys who insisted on jeans and other informal American clothes. A few traditional private schools continued to insist on shorts. Older boys dressed up in suits little different from their fathers. Mostly they wore casual clothes with shorts becoming increasingly common.

This was also the year that the U.S. opened diplomatic relations with China. Chinese influences appeared in a wide range of apparel and probably led to the fashionability of down or polyester fiber-filled jackets and coats. The energy crisis of 1979 brought long lines at gas pumps and lower temperatures in government offices. Jackets and sweaters helped affected workers to adapt. Consumer magazines contrasted the energy required to manufacture and care for 100% cotton shirts versus polyester and cotton blends. Even though these analyses showed that blends used less energy over their lifetimes, consumers tended to think of cotton as more environmentally friendly.

British boys increasingly got long pants suits at younger ages. The age at which boys should wear shorts was widely discussed in the media. For many British boys at the beginning of the decade, getting his first pair of long pants continued to be an important landmark. The increasing popularity of jeans and other long trousers meant that by the end of the decade boys wore long pants at quite early ages and it was less of an event. While fewer British boys wore short pants suits, many schools still required shorts for elementary age children. Almost all boys in state secondary schools wore longs. A few private schools continued to require shorts for older boys, but this had virtually disappeared by the end of the decade.


Jeans came to dominate the fashion scene in America and for that matter around the world. They became increasingly popular for even casual dress where. But of course it was for leisure that they dominated. Mom proved engebious on how to extend the life of a pair of for ever. You sure can make those jeans last and fix them. But are we talking girls or boys here? and how old? When asked, Do any of you have any great ideas on how to repair holes in the knees on kids jeans? I know I can always cut them off and make shorts. The iron on patches just peel off and I don't want a tacky zig-zag around them, one inventive mom replied:

When my kids were little it was a snap. I would get different colors of flannel (plaids for the boys and flowers, geometric designs, anything goes for the girls) and put cuffs around the bottoms and quilted patches on the knees( inside and out.. they last longer this way) and then make a pocket to match on the boys plain t-shirts and maybe ruffles or a design around the neck on the girls plain t-shirts. They looked pretty sharp even if I do say so.. and this also helped on hand me downs.. they usually couldn't wait til it was their turn to wear them. And those cuffs usually added another year for that person to wear the jeans.

Christopher Wagner

Related Pages in the Boys' Historical Web Site
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